I usually read the cosiest of cosy mysteries but here’s something very different – the forthcoming debut novel by my fellow Crooked Cat author, C. J. Sutton. (Due out 18th July, pre-order now!)
I recently sent him my 8 Quick Questions and here are his interesting responses – thank you, C.J!
Eight Quick Questions
- When you finish a new writing project, who is the first person you share it with?
I am very secretive when I finish a new book and generally keep most details away from family and friends, even during the submission process. Usually I will send my brother a text message with a brief outline as we share similar tastes in books and movies, and he will ask me questions about key characters and plot points. Once the cover art is available I’m very quick to post pictures on all facets of social media, but sharing my written work is something I’m still coming to terms with. I think my wife will probably want to start reading my novels before anyone else, so if you ask me this question in a year I will likely have a new answer.
- What is the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?
A university teacher once told me that my work was always read first because it put her in the mood to read. That always stayed with me. At the time I thought that if I could put someone with years of education in the mood to read, perhaps this would help in selling books to new readers. Compliments do fight against those darker days of writing, but if you take them too seriously you will end up doing the same with criticism. We all have our own voice and stories to share, so eventually you end up relying on instinct.
- Everyone has bad writing days (or weeks, or months). What do you do when you start to hate everything that you’ve written?
I tend to just stick at it. Sometimes the rhythm of words can get the plot points down on the page, and I can polish everything when I feel more creative. Pumping out those words is the most important part of the writing process for me, as editing is an aspect that comes quite naturally. A decent word count for the day can make a bad writing day seem productive. A coffee is also beneficial. I liken it to a re-assuring arm across the shoulder. If all else fails, I just go for a walk and think about football.
- We all cast our characters for that hypothetical film or tv deal. Which actor/s would you choose to play your main character/s?
Leonardo DiCaprio would have been perfect ten years ago, but as he’s nearing his mid-40s and the lead character is 30 I need to re-think the answer. As much as his Twilight days will follow him everywhere, Robert Pattinson has really impressed me with his recent body of work and he is capable of portraying such a complex and deep-thinking character. I would pitch him for a left-field shot at playing Dr Magnus Paul, the psychologist at the Asylum. For the main antagonist, inmate Jasper James, I would pitch Christian Bale or Tom Hardy. They can both play confronting characters and have demonstrated this over a number of years. For the unreliable guard Carter, hopefully Al Pacino feels capable of straining that voice once more.
- What do you enjoy most in the writing process? What parts of it do you really dislike?
I love writing dialogue. Speech is so important in reading, even if we don’t say the words out loud. I write in a way that tells the reader how words are being said by the character. This is achieved through grammar and this differs with each character. Writing criminally insane characters for Dortmund Hibernate required pauses in speech, capital letters to emphasise screaming and mumbled words. I do hope that readers enjoy the extra dimension this style adds to the novel.
I’m still finding ways to enjoy when the story becomes a product, which requires reading through the manuscript again and again to discover the smallest typo or grammar issue. The first edits are enjoyable, but the latter stages are like wading through a swamp. The only reason I dislike this is because the writing no longer feels fresh to me. I would compare it to listening to the same song over and over; no matter how good it is, you’ll eventually bang your head against the wall.
- Research is a vital part of writing. What is the most memorable or interesting thing you’ve learned along the way?
Researching criminally insane patients provided insight into some of the darkest minds the world has seen. The heavy reliance on drugs and electrotherapy throughout the 90s (and prior) was an aspect that I wanted to avoid in Dortmund Hibernate, preferring to focus on the minds and their crimes. I read through books on the likes of Charles Manson to understand how an unstable individual can lead a cult, and also continued my research into psychology. My notes are probably longer than the book.
- What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Write what you enjoy reading. If you’re interested and having fun, it doesn’t really matter if nobody else reads the book because you’ll have learned more about yourself. Obviously we all want to be successful and sell millions of copies, but what’s the point if the story doesn’t entertain you in some capacity? When you’re in a good space, your writing improves. I’m not sure where I first saw this piece of advice, but it has remained with me.
- Finally, in one sentence, tell us about your current project.
Dortmund Hibernate is the most mentally challenging, insane, soul destroying project I have ever worked on, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Insights into the way authors create their books is always intriguing. Find out more about C. J. Sutton and his work – and to pre-order Dortmund Hibernate at a bargain price:
Link to Amazon – https://amzn.to/2M76hGH
Just to prove I haven’t been idle lately, here’s a photo of a Norwegian glacier I saw lately!
To find my books, here’s my Amazon.co.uk page: https://amzn.to/2ovRSKQ